Like Politics, All Innovation Is Local

The phrase "all politics is local" poignantly highlights the truth that a politician's success is directly tied to her ability to understand the issues of her constituents. With the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit underway, the world turns their attention to the pledges the global community has made to fight hunger, poverty and disease. With a focus on local innovation, the African First Ladies have come together around the belief that success in achieving these goals is directly tied to our ability to inspire, foster and activate local solutions.

In partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), African First Ladies are championing effective local solutions to end malnutrition. We have come together because of the clear evidence that nutrition is an accelerator in the attainment of the MDGs. We have come together because of a deep understanding that nutrition must be placed at the heart of development.

And, we have come together because the problem of malnutrition is difficult, but solvable and affordable.

There is a strong medical and economic consensus that nutrition lies at the heart of health and food security, and there is widespread understanding that poor nutrition can play a major role in holding back generations of people and societies. The human and economic costs of inadequate nutrition are enormous -- hitting the very poorest women and children the hardest. In the absence of quality nutrition, the cycle of poverty will continue generation after generation.

As leaders in our countries, we know that malnutrition is preventable. We know that low cost solutions exist and we know how to scale them. And we know the key areas to target. We agree that we must focus on the most vulnerable, those in the process of giving life and sustaining it through conception to early childhood. This 1,000 day window is critical because the physical and mental damage caused by undernutrition is largely irreversible after 2 years of age.

We have come together because we know what success looks like and we have seen innovation prosper in our own back yards. Adequate nutrition is fundamental to achieving the MDGs, and nutrition interventions provide some of the highest returns to international development available. Ensuring quality nutrition for those in need will require multi-stakeholder engagement and we support the global effort to Scale Up Nutrition (SUN), with a goal to reduce hunger and undernutrition and contribute to the realization of all the MDGs. Along with more than 100 entities from national governments, the United Nations system, civil society organizations, development agencies, academia and the private sector, we endorse the SUN Framework and SUN Road Map.

Join us in making nutrition a priority. Not just this week -- when all are focused on the MDG summit and it is easy to make promises to the world's most vulnerable women and children -- but every week. For it will take sustained engagement of local leaders, empowered citizens, governments, civil society and the private sector to ensure we position nutrition at the center stage of development. We must remain vigilant and we must champion local breakthroughs in nutrition initiatives, because the health, well-being and vitality of our women, children and families depend on it.